Italian parliament approves civil unions

Civil unions in Italy become law.

The chamber of deputies has given definitive approval to a controversial bill introducing civil unions for same-sex couples.

The bill passed on 11 May after first being put to a confidence vote, which was carried with 369 votes in favour, 193 against and two abstentions.

It must now be signed by president of the republic Sergio Mattarella and published in the official gazette in order to come into force.

The new law fills a major legislative vacuum, since Italy was the only country in western Europe not to allow marriage or civil partnerships for gay couples.

It extends to committed same-sex couples some of the rights and obligations that have until now been the prerogative of heterosexual married couples, as well as introducing new rights and protections for unmarried cohabiting couples including gays.

However, it is a much watered-down version of the proposal that first came before parliament, after opposition from junior government partner Nuovo Centro Destra forced prime minister Matteo Renzi to drop a key clause allowing partners in a civil union to adopt each other’s biological children.

Renzi subsequently said so-called ‘stepchild adoptions’ would be introduced in a comprehensive overhaul of Italy’s complicated and slow-moving adoptions system before the end of the current parliament.

Opponents, including Catholics within the government coalition, have said they will initiate a referendum on the law, while Alfio Marchini, a formerly independent candidate in the June Rome mayoral elections who is now backed by the centre-right, has sparked controversy by saying he would refuse to celebrate civil unions if he becomes mayor.

Laura Clarke

For other articles by Laura Clarke see her blog Laura in Italy